Review: Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie

PLOT: Two best friends, along with an unlikely superhero they unwittingly create, must try and stop the evil Professor Poopypants. Will they stop him before he takes away all the children’s laughter? What a wicked plan that is.

REVIEW: Before stepping into CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS: THE FIRST EPIC MOVIE, I had no idea who this character really was and why they fly around in their underwear. Of course there was a basic knowledge that it was very popular for young readers, but nothing more than that. One thing that was expected was a series of poop and fart jokes, after all, it is called Captain Underpants. And while the overuse of that kind of humor can get old, especially in animated features, this first big movie manages to do it better than you’d expect. By embracing the silliness of it all, you can’t help but laugh a little. In fact, I’m sure the younger viewers already accustomed to the Captain will love that aspect – one scene in particular involving several whoopee cushions was actually kind of hilarious.

captain underpants the first epic movie dreamworks animation ed helm kevin hart thomas middleditch nick kroll

CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS begins with our prankster heroes Harold (Thomas Middleditch) and George (Kevin Hart). The two are enjoying their elementary years by constantly making life problematic for the very mean Mr. Krupp (Ed Helms). The principle is desperate to catch the two in some act so he can separate them as much as possible. After getting caught in his office, George and Harold desperately try and save themselves from Krupp’s punishment and miraculously turn him into a fictional superhero they created in comic form – thanks to a hypnotic ring they found it a snack box. This gets tricky as the principal snaps in and out of his two personalities. However, the two boys realize that they may need a real hero when the villainous Professor Poopypants (Nick Kroll) shows up as the science teacher. Instead of teaching the young ones, Poopypants has more nefarious plans – he wants to take away laughter from all the children.

The film begins with a few crude drawings of a Captain Underpants adventure. We are then introduced to his creators. Not only are George and Harold best friends, they also make a ton of comics together. By breaking the fourth wall – often – the two boys bring us into their world and it’s a lot of fun. And since their principal hates fun, we see a whole lot of students in a miserable state. One young boy spends way too much time in his locker and it’s a very funny bit. As for Krupp, he ends up being a likable jerk who is unaware of his strange new superhero personality. All the actors involved are perfectly suited for the characters they voice. Although I’m starting to feel a bit bad for Nick Kroll. First he plays a douche and now he’s a dude named “Poopypants.” When is this guy going to voice a hero?

One of the best things about the film is the script. Based on the books by Dav Pilkey, Nicholas Stoller (GET HIM TO THE GREEK, THE MUPPETS, NEIGHBORS) keeps things moving with lots of references to all things underwear, but more importantly, the value of friendship. As annoying as Harold and George would likely be in real life, they make for a couple of cool characters here. Sure the storyline is a bit generic and kind of silly, but it is a kids flick that still manages to be entertaining. There is a self awareness to this that somehow makes up for all the “potty humor.” The filmmakers realize that you need to have that in a big epic movie about a guy running around in his underpants. Thankfully, much of it was pretty clever, especially the use of toilets in the final act. It’s goofy, but it has just enough winks and nods for adults while still being fun for children.

Director David Soren (TURBO) does a fine job with the material as well. It’s a big and bright canvass of unlikely superheroes. This is yet another example of how over the past few years DreamWorks Animation has developed a solid series of features, and this is probably one of the better entries as of late. While there is something to be taken in for older crowds, the absurdity occasionally wears thin, and the slim plot is slightly repetitious. However, it is the huge heart that it finds in the relationship between the two best friends that is infectious. The Captain himself is awfully dumb yet endearing. It works well with Ed Helms ability to play a lovable schmuck.

CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS: THE FIRST EPIC MOVIE is a summer surprise. Spending time with George, Harold and Mr. Krupp was mostly a joy. It’s not going to change the world, but it will make the young ones happy and probably keep parents smiling. The soundtrack is bouncy, the jokes usually work, and the exploration of best buddies and fear of separation is actually quite sweet. Now if you abhor poop and fart jokes this will probably not interest you. However, that kind of humor in children’s flicks usually doesn’t work as well as it does here. If you are looking for an pleasant animated flick for the whole family, let the Captain carry you up, up and away.



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JimmyO is one of’s longest-tenured writers, with him reviewing movies and interviewing celebrities since 2007 as the site’s Los Angeles correspondent.